Accepted to Multiple Colleges? Here’s How to Confirm—and Reject—Your Admission
Choosing which college to attend is a huge decision—one that affects the kinds of unique opportunities and challenges you will face and, ultimately, the rest of your life. It’s wise to apply to more than one college, not only to give yourself a greater chance of acceptance, but also to allow you to weigh some options before choosing where to go! And if you’re one of the lucky applicants to receive multiple acceptance letters, you could have a fortunate yet difficult decision to make on college decision day. We put together some guidelines to help you make an informed, positive decision between multiple admissions offers as well as how to accept and reject them with grace.
If you have received acceptance letters from multiple schools, there are a few things to consider before making a final decision. Look at the big picture and weigh the pros and cons of attending your potential choices.
First, you may want to compare costs—what will tuition, the cost of living, and your financial aid options look like for each school? Depending on your financial situation, this alone could make or break your decision for you!
Next, imagine what the actual experience at the school will be like. If you have visited each of your potential colleges, refer back to your photos and the notes you made from your trip—how did you like the academic programs, facilities, culture, etc.? Can you picture yourself there for the next four years? And, of course, revisit each option with trusted family members and/or mentors; talking it over with another person can provide you practical insight that you may not have considered on your own. You can also reach out to students at your potential schools to answer any specific questions about the day-to-day experience on campus.
Once you’ve decided not to attend a school that has accepted you, you’ll have a few actions to take in order to decline your admission properly.
- Let the college know as soon as you choose not to attend.
- This is a common courtesy not only to the school, but also to other prospective students who may be on the waiting list. The sooner you formally decline acceptance, the sooner the admissions office can make room for another applicant who may be waiting anxiously for confirmation.
- Confirm each school’s guidelines for rejecting an offer.
- Some schools may have specific instructions for how to decline admission. These can include sending an email to an admissions representative or filling out a form online. Check your schools’ websites (or your acceptance letters themselves) to see whether they need anything in particular.
- If you can’t find any explicit instructions, be sure to respond anyway; it benefits both you and the school to be as clear as possible. Rather than communicating over the phone, it is best to decline an offer officially in writing. All you need to do is send a brief note via letter or email that is formatted like the one shown below:
Your phone number
Your email address
To whom it may concern:
Leave a note thanking the admissions officers for the opportunity and consideration and let them know that you are accepting an offer from a different school. If you spoke with a specific person, feel free to thank them directly. It is best to be polite, concise, and professional; this school could still be an option for graduate school down the road!
Do I Have to Decline Admission to Colleges?
No, you don’t have to do anything official to decline a college acceptance. It is, however, the courteous thing to do.
But it’s not all about etiquette; the sooner you let a school know that you will not be attending, the sooner that school can offer your spot to a student on the waitlist. And hey, you never know what the future holds. If you decide to transfer to the university later or apply for a graduate program there, it would only help you to have a positive track record with the school.
If I Accept Admission to a College, Can I Back Out?
For the most part, accepting an offer of admission is not binding. Some colleges offer ‘early-decision’ admissions, which do include formal contracts, but the more common regular-decision and early-action applications typically do not require students to commit without any leniency.
You are welcome to opt out of attending without penalty so long as you do so before you submit a deposit. Unfortunately, things can get tricky if you decide to back out after submitting your deposit, which is usually non-refundable. In that case, we advise you to discuss your options directly with the university.
What Happens if I Don’t Decline a College That Admitted Me?
Most college acceptances have a kind of “expiration date” to them. For example, if you do not formally commit to attending the school by submitting a deposit, then your acceptance will be canceled for the year in which you applied. Schools will also rescind any financial aid packages they offered you. This means that you’d have to reapply with the potential of a different outcome if you decide to transfer or enroll in a later year. Ultimately, this doesn’t matter much if you are not interested in attending the school.
Can I Accept Multiple College Offers?
After you answer the question – How many colleges should I apply to – the next logical thought becomes, ‘can you accept multiple college offers to keep your options open’? While this may seem like a clever tactic, double- or even triple-depositing is a bad idea. It’s obviously impossible to attend two schools at once, so the act of formally accepting multiple college offers is widely considered unethical.
Your acceptance and deposit are the schools’ way of telling which and how many students will be in their freshman class. When you accept an offer, you are essentially filling up a space that could be someone else’s. You are also preventing a student on the waitlist from getting that acceptance. And by the time you don’t show up on campus in the fall, it might be too late for students on the waitlist to enroll and change their entire plans for college. Not cool. Even worse, if your schools catch wind of your deceitful double-deposit, they might just rescind your offers altogether. Yikes.
If you’ve made your final decision and are confident in the school that’s right for you, refer to your acceptance letter for the instructions to enroll. Most colleges will require that you provide a written commitment along with a deposit.
Keep in mind that your acceptance to college is tentative—colleges still care that you perform well throughout the remainder of your senior year, so you’ll want to maintain a strong GPA and show exemplary behavior. A school can revoke their admission decision if you fail to maintain their criteria, so now is not the time to slack off and risk all the hard work you have put in!
Receiving a college acceptance letter is an exciting experience, and getting admitted to multiple colleges is absolutely something to be proud of. To choose between multiple schools that want you is a weighty decision, but the option to choose at all is a true reward for your diligent work over the past four years! Take pride in this accomplishment, and once you’ve made your choice, take care to accept and decline your offers in the appropriate manner.
We know there are so many factors that play into your ultimate college decision, but it’s important to make the final choice in a timely manner. Weigh your options, talk it over with your parents and guidance counselor, and get excited for what’s ahead. And when you’re ready to shop for your dorm, sign up for orientation, and look for ways to support yourself financially through school, you can always check back in with us! Colleges of Distinction’s Advice section is loaded with articles to help you navigate everything before, during, and even after college.
P.S. Happy College Decision Day!